The Japanese automobile giant Toyota and its subsidiary Hino announced Tuesday that they were going to develop an electric heavy goods vehicle running on hydrogen for the North American market, with a first prototype planned for the first half of 2021. This project follows another agreement between Toyota and Hino announced in March aimed at developing for the Japanese market a 25-ton heavy truck running on hydrogen.
While the market for hydrogen-powered cars is still in its infancy, notably due to a lack of sufficient infrastructure, the market for trucks and buses with fuel cells could well pave the way, according to analysts in the sector. Because these vehicles generally have predictable routes, which could greatly facilitate the installation of hydrogen stations on their routes.
One of the world pioneers of fuel cell cars with its Mirai model, Toyota is also involved in a pilot project of hydrogen trucks for the port of Los Angeles since 2017. Other major automotive groups are increasingly interested in the emerging market for hydrogen-powered trucks, which do not cause CO2 emissions on the road, as environmental regulations in Europe and California in particular become stricter.
The American General Motors has planned to take 11% of the capital of its compatriot Nikola, a manufacturer of electric and hydrogen-powered trucks, but the latter has been in turmoil for several weeks due to various scandals. Germany's Daimler and Sweden's Volvo also joined forces in April to manufacture hydrogen engines for heavy trucks, while South Korea's Hyundai also has ambitions in this segment.
The American electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla, whose founder and boss Elon Musk hardly believes in the potential of hydrogen technology, is betting on battery electric trucks.
Toyota also separately announced Tuesday a project to develop a train with a hybrid engine, combining hydrogen and electric batteries, in partnership with its compatriot Hitachi and the Japanese railway company JR East. Called "Hybari", this train will benefit from an adaptation of the hydrogen technology developed by Toyota for the automobile, and will have to be tested in real situations in Japan from March 2022, the manufacturer specified.
Now considered an interesting option to replace diesel trains, hydrogen trains have already been tested before in Japan and elsewhere in the world, notably in Europe.